2016-02-17 / Voice at the Shore

Seashore Gardens kicks off its 100th birthday celebration

Voice shore correspondent

Seashore Gardens’ leaders (from left) Jason Goldstein, board chair, Rich Cohen, president of the foundation board, and Martin Klein, president and CEO. Seashore Gardens’ leaders (from left) Jason Goldstein, board chair, Rich Cohen, president of the foundation board, and Martin Klein, president and CEO. Turning 100 is a special milestone.

“At 100 years old, you can get a letter of congratulations from the President of the United States,” said Martin Klein, president and CEO of Seashore Gardens Living Center (SGLC), who has been privileged to see a number of SGLC residents receive such letters during his nearly half-century there.

Now, the Galloway home for the aged—which began as the Hebrew Sheltering Home of Atlantic City in 1916—is celebrating its own 100th year. “How many homes for the aged survive 100 years? It’s unusual,” said Klein.

SGLC’s centennial year celebration officially kicked off at its annual meeting earlier this month. To mark this milestone, the home for the aged is holding numerous special events. Some—like last week’s special performance of the Bay Atlantic Symphony at SGLC—are just for center residents, but many others are open to the entire community. These include a 5K Run and Health Walk to benefit Alzheimer’s outreach on April 15, a Centennial Golf tournament on June 6, a summer carnival and a health fair.

Seashore Gardens Living Center in Galloway is now celebrating its 100th anniversary. Seashore Gardens Living Center in Galloway is now celebrating its 100th anniversary. SGLC will also hold many musical events open to the community throughout the year presented by the Schultz Hill Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing the arts in South Jersey. (Notably, foundation head John Schultz is on the SGLC Foundation board.) SGLC’s sumptuous annual fundraisers—the summer gala and the Black and White Ball in the fall—will also be part of the centennial celebration.

“We hope all of this will help us raise funds to keep the facility going,” said Jason Goldstein, vice president of Roth- Goldstein’s Memorial Chapel, who decided to serve an additional term as SGLC’s board chairman so that he could lead the organization during its centennial year.

“I wanted to be chair for the 100- year anniversary,” explained Goldstein. “What sticks around for 100 years, consistently, without being purchased? To keep going, to keep alive the SGLC mission of helping the elderly, holding true to Jewish values yet serving all sorts of people for all of this time, is really amazing.”

Fundraising is a central part of the centennial celebration. Eighty percent of SGLC residents are on Medicaid, which does not fully cover the cost of the care they receive, said Klein. As a result, community members’ donations are essential to the center’s survival. Ironically, the fact that the facility is beautiful and immaculately kept can be a disadvantage when it comes to fundraising, he noted. “It’s sometimes difficult to raise money because the facility is so nice—it looks like we have money.”

Yet maintaining the facility to these standards, and employing a diverse staff of committed, high-quality caregivers is “increasingly difficult,” said Klein. “It’s getting more difficult to survive as an independent organization. Lots of organizations [like ours] are now merging or affiliating. Although we work with local organizations— such as Stockton and the local hospitals—we are still private. We want to continue staying independent to stay true to our mission.” That mission is to enrich residents’ quality of life and provide the finest quality of health care and supportive services, while respecting Jewish values and tradition.

“When your mom or grand mom gets sick, it happens in a split second,” Klein added. “It’s in everyone’s interests to make sure this facility is here for them. In order to assure this option exists, we need community support.”

It was this same kind of thinking that 100 years earlier gave birth to SGLC’s original incarnation—the Hebrew Sheltering Home of Atlantic City at 102½ South Georgia Avenue (now the site of Tropicana). At that time, a handful of Jewish business people saw the need for a shelter where poor Jewish people passing through Atlantic City could spend the night and receive a few meals. In 1927 the home served 1,700 transients. Finding the money to support this facility was a constant struggle even then, according to a story by the home’s History Committee published in 1953 in the Jewish Record, which was then Atlantic City’s Jewish newspaper.

In response to community needs, this transient shelter transformed into a home for the aged. By 1937, the center— which had been renamed the Hebrew Old Age and Sheltering Home of Atlantic City and relocated to a 20-bed facility at 33 S. Vermont Avenue— served 800 transients and 6 full-time residents. By 1952, transients were no longer accepted; the home’s name had changed to the Hebrew Old Age Center of Atlantic City, and its 44 residents were moved into the building that was once the Cosmopolitan Hotel, on 3850 Atlantic Avenue, according to the Jewish Record story.

SGLC’s Klein remembers this site very well. He grew up right across the street from it, never dreaming that one day he would actually work there. But what began in 1969 as a summer job at the Old Age Center for Klein, who was then a teacher in Atlantic City, has since turned into a passion.

Under Klein’s leadership, the organization has continued to steadily transform—accepting people of all backgrounds, becoming a licensed skilled-nursing facility, adding independent and assisted living facilities as well as home health and other community outreach services.

By far the biggest accomplishment under Klein’s leadership has been the creation of the Simon and Sylvia Zisman Seashore Gardens Living Center facility in Galloway, which opened in 2002.

“We knew from the start we wanted [the new facility] to have a home-like environment,” said Klein, who formed a committee that traveled the country looking at existing facilities that could serve as models for SGLC. “We wanted to go outside of the box.”

Now, it’s SGLC that serves as the model. “People come here from all over the world because they’ve heard about us and want to see what makes us successful,” said Klein. “People come from as far as Japan as well as from across the country.”

Goldstein appreciates SGLC’s uniqueness. “People have a stereotype of a nursing home in their heads, but SGLC doesn’t conform to that stereotype— not at all. When you walk in here and see the cleanliness, meet the staff and volunteers and see the love and the warmth, you think, ‘Oh my God, this is the most amazing facility you’ve ever seen!’”

Goldstein, who is 35, has been working to get the next generation involved in supporting Seashore Gardens and its mission of caring for the elderly. “I really want to bring the young generation—families with kids—into the organization, so that they can give back.” .

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